Kumara Swimming Pool (old)

State Highway 73, Kumara

  • Kumara Swimming Pool (old). Image included in Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand.
  • Kumara Swimming Pool (old). Image included in Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand.
  • Kumara Swimming Pool (old). Image included in Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand.
  • Kumara Swimming Pool (old). Image courtesy of www.flickr.com .
    Copyright: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 14/04/2015.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 7487 Date Entered 6th April 2001

Locationopen/close

City/District Council

Westland District

Region

West Coast Region

Legal description

Pt R 1138 SO 3042

Summaryopen/close

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Introduction:

Kumara was the centre of mining activity from the 1860s, making a dramatic effect on the local environment with clearing of the bush and the creation of huge mounds of tailings, During the depression when the population and mining activity had declined this unique swimming pool was built as a community project.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Historical:

The Old Kumara Swimming Pool was built in 1934 during the Great Depression under the direction of Mr John A Peever. It was part of a 1930s sports complex which included a cricket pitch and basketball court. The old main road on the inland side of Kumara, divided the cricket pitch/basketball court part of the complex from the swimming pool, The construction of the Kumara Power scheme development,

c.1980, completely destroyed these other features of this impressive local sports complex, though with the town's declining population they had not been kept in good order for some time.

Depression labour was used for the construction of the pool, according to local history and the programme is recalled as being "Scheme 13". However no documentation has been found to substantiate that this was a government funded work scheme. Depression work schemes were usually organised by local authorities who dispensed funding provided by central government The nature of the work projects varied enormously throughout the country in their degree of usefulness and this would certainly have been considered a more worthwhile project than many of the tasks on which depression labour was employed. A search has been made of the West Coast Times for the period, where mention is made of work schemes involving building repairs at the abattoirs, scything grass alongside roads, gravelling footpaths and roads, tidying up the plots and grass at the cemetery and local parks; but there is no mention of anything at Kumara.

The Christchurch Star, Tuesday December 18th 1934 provided the best documentation found. The item was accompanied by three photos and stated:

"Swimming baths constructed at Kumara

A swimming bath constructed on an old digging site".

A fine swimming bath, 50 yards long and 33 yards wide, has been

constructed at Kumara by voluntary labour. The bath, which is situated

amidst the debris left from the old gold diggings, was formed under the

direction of Mr J Peever of Kumara. The sides have been built with boulders left by the old diggers. Dressing sheds are in the course of erection and when Mr Peever's plan is completed Kumara will possess a bath in surroundings probably unique in New Zealand. The photographs on the left and in the centre show two views of the baths, Right: Children of the district enjoying a "dip".

Idea conceived by Mr Peever under his direction. Depth of 6ft 6ins at deep end 3ft 6ins at shallow end. Two shallow bays for children.

This article raised the question as to whether or not this was a government funded "official" depression work scheme, or whether Mr Peever just organised the local unemployed to do something useful for the community. John Alfred Peever is listed on the electoral roll for 1931 as Director, Public Company and in the 1933 Wise's Directory as Mine Manager. He was also a local councillor and was clearly a man of some status in the community. His daughter has explained that he was manager of the Hohanu Gold Sluicing Company in Kumara from 1924 to 1937. She says:

"My mother told me that he was concerned that the men didn't have enough to do (in the depression years) and he thought up a scheme to make use of the tailings left stacked in piles by the Taramakau River."

A current Kumara resident, Margaret Gilbert, believes that the pool was initially formed accidentally, when the town's water supply pipe leaked over a hollow in the ground. Children started to swim there and it was then "improved" by the construction of stone walls around the area. This may well have been the inspiration for Mr Peever who had begun the construction of the cricket pitch in 1928., Material costs for the pool would have been minimal and the timber for the ladies' dressing sheds was paid for by the local branch of the Women's Institute. The water was piped some 3 kilometres from Dillmanstown Kapitea Reservoir south of Kumara, using iron piping remaining from the old sluicing claims.

There does not seem to have been a very large number of unemployed in Kumara, though there were probably enough willing volunteers available to assist. In 1934 the population of Kumara was 420. In that year 159 males were listed as being fully employed, 5 partly employed and only 2 wholly unemployed. 13 females were fully employed, 2 wholly unemployed and none partly employed.

The pool was of Olympic dimensions, measuring 33 yards (30.16m) in width and 50 yards (45.7m.) in length. It had two learners' pools and a diving board. Its construction is thought to be unique in New Zealand, the surrounding walls being built with boulders from tailings left behind by gold miners. The walls of the pool are about four feet (L3m) wide, and the space between the inner and outer stone walls is filled with gravel and clay. The pool is surrounded by acres of high piles of tailings left by last centuries' gold diggers. These tailings are historically significant in their own right.

Kumara's population had declined to 316 by 1996. The swimming pool has not been used for many years. The dressing sheds and the diving board have gone and native bush has regenerated around the site to provide a different environment from the rather stark surrounding of the piles of tailings, completely visible at the time the swimming pool was completed. A local resident, Mr Joe Payn, has spent a good deal

of his time clearing the pool area of the gorse and scrub which had grown over it.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Social:

The complex, originally comprising a swimming pool, cricket pitch and basketball court was a significant social amenity for the township. It was the major community undertaking in the area in the 1930s and is still significant in the memories of many Kumara residents, as one of their great achievements as well as a reminder of the grim depression days, It illustrates the willingness of a community with few resources to

give their time and effort to a project which would benefit them all.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is from the original Historic Assessment Under Section 23 Criteria report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

The swimming pool is historically significant as a visual record of the type of work scheme organised locally for the unemployed men during the Great Depression. It is a unique example because of its construction and its links back to the gold rush days, with the use of tailings and the old iron sluicing pipe.

The Great Depression of the 1930s had an enormous impact on the lives of New Zealanders and people all over the world. Unemployment became a major problem and many families found themselves without basic necessities like food and power. The government tried to help, but the problem was so large it was difficult to tackle effectively. In 1931, for the first time, the government initiated relief schemes for the unemployed. Immediately, 23,000 men signed up for the 21 shilling per week allowance. Most of these men carried out relief work in exchange for the payment. West coast residents recall work being rationed. They were offered between one and three days' employment per week at rates of 7/6d a day for single men or 12/6d for married men. The work undertaken was notoriously non-productive and demoralising, as this account of the work indicates:

"We were put to work digging a ditch, but nobody knew what it was for or where it was going to ... [or] how deep it had to be, so we just stayed in the one place and kept digging until someone came along and moved us on."

The men undertaking this work were often well qualified, with a trade or profession who were unable to find employment The social effects of this unemployment were devastating, with widespread malnutrition and inadequate housing making everyday life a struggle for many people. The efforts of the government were well intended, but failed to solve the problem. The worst of the Depression was over by about 1936

but the economy did not fully recover until the outbreak of war in 1939.

The pool provides a visual record of the type of work scheme organised locally for unemployed men during the Great Depression. In contrast to the type of work often organised by the government, men in Kumara were able to work on something that would benefit their community. Although the work was laborious, it was productive and worthwhile. No doubt the men were happier working on a sporting fixture for their town than pointlessly digging a ditch. However, because of the paucity of official information making it impossible to verify whether this was an "official" Depression works scheme, the complex can also be interpreted as a most unusual example of community building carried out with voluntary labour. This illustrates both a typical kiwi "can do" attitude and the strong cohesiveness of rural communities in the early 20th century.

Interestingly, during the Depression, a number of men travelled to the West Coast to try their luck in the old goldmines in an attempt to avoid the relief work camps.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history:

The swimming pool provides knowledge about the projects undertaken during the depression years, a period that had a huge influence on the social, cultural and economic development of this country.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place:

The now quite small community at Kumara as well as residents from the wider neighbourhood are very aware of the town's past and recognise the achievement of their forbears in creating this amenity. The local community have erected a signpost to draw attention to the historic pool area.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:

It was an innovative use of the materials at hand to construct this swimming pool.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places:

No other instance of a swimming pool or indeed any other structure is known to have been constructed from gold mining tailings.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

The swimming pool was part of the sports complex which included the cricket pitch and basketball court. Now separated by the main road it is only the swimming pool which is clearly visible. The environs have changed as the bush has regenerated around the pool so that now there is lush vegetation along with the stark reminders of the mining past in the heaps of bare tailings. A very unusual landscape has thus been created, with the cleared pool area and the environs recovering from their stark 19th century appearance.

Linksopen/close

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1934 -

Information Sources

Christchurch Star

Christchurch Star

December 18 1934

Grey River Argus

Grey River Argus

1934 - 'Kumara Notes'

West Coast Times

West Coast Times

1934

Simpson, 1974

Tony Simpson, The Sugarbag Years: A People's History of the 1930's depression in New Zealand, Godwit, 1974

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Southern region office

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.